Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Fanny Press
Genre: M/M D/s romance
Length: 351 pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
This second novel in the Puppy Love series follows Matt and Petey as they continue to adapt to their D/s relationship, leading to some extreme submission scenes but also a lot of character growth for Petey and Matt.
Matt and Petey are the central characters in Puppy Love. They are a representation of an ideal which few (if any) other BDSM romances dare to present. They are a couple who identify as Dom and sub, not merely as a form of sexual roleplay, but as an innate identity. By nature Matt is dominant. He is decisive and self-confident, and he’s a born leader. Petey, contrarily, is shy and timid. He is submissive by nature and craves the guidance, affection, and control of a man he regards to be of superior status to himself.
Those who have experienced and understood the theme of this story recognize that the Dom/sub relationship presented is not one in which abuse or bullying is tolerated or glorified. The story is about the evolution of two very unique characters, one Master and one sub. Based upon outward appearances, one would regard the couple as being rather mainstream. They are not clad in leather. They have no piercings or outlandish tattoos. They do not engage in torturous or sadistic sex play which involves beatings or wild sexual fetishes.
Matt and Petey are a young gay couple in love. They’re a Dom/sub couple. They’re an Owner and his pup.
Those of you who read my review of the first book in this series Puppy Love (reviewed here) will know that I had a very mixed response to that book. I liked Petey and liked the themes of submission but found some of the extremes of the submission a little hard to handle. This book continues Matt and Petey’s journey together into the D/s lifestyle and I was keen to discover how this book was going to develop them as characters. Those of you who may have been put off by the golden showers and other ‘water sports’ in the previous book, will be pleased to know that, whilst it is occasionally mentioned, there isn’t an actual GS scene in the book.
The book picks up a few weeks after the end of the previous book and takes place over the course of about two weeks. Matt and Petey are on their way back from the cruise that Matt gave Petey for his birthday when they are first on the scene at a serious car accident. This leads to them befriending one of the EMTs, Eric, who invites them to a party. At the party they encounter Ryan, who they had met in the previous book, in what had been an embarrassing situation for Petey. This sets off a chain of events which tests the strength of Petey and Matt’s relationship.
There was much to enjoy about this book, especially in the way that the characters grew and developed over the course of the book. I was particularly delighted in the character of Matt. In the previous book I hadn’t liked Matt very much. He seemed cold and unfeeling in his dominant behaviour over Petey and I found it difficult to understand his motivations in the way that he treated Petey. In this book, even though it’s still written in the first person from Petey’s point of view, I felt that Matt was a better rounded, more nuanced character. Instead of just acting dominant, he explained why he was acting as he was. Also, as his love for Petey grew, so did his gentleness and care for Petey and he became less just the stern master and more the friend and protector of Petey. Matt also makes a number of errors of judgement which leads to consequences for the couple and again made him seem more human. By the end of the book, I truly understood why Petey loved him, whereas in the previous book Petey’s love seemed just hero-worship.
Petey too also develops as a character as he begins to learn to stand up for himself. He’s still a submissive at heart, but I felt he was much less of a doormat in this book as he learns that true submission doesn’t necessarily mean you allow someone to take advantage of you. I was also pleased to see Petey trying to overcome his tendency to self-flagellate. It was still there and at times I, as well as the other characters, felt a little cross with him for trying to blame himself for things which were simply not his fault but as Petey naturally tries to take the blame, I could understand why it’s still an important part of his character. I was also pleased to see the growing friendship between Petey and Drew as they rely on each other more and more with their shared experience of being subs. Drew has to be one of my favourite characters in the book. His calm, unruffled exterior and kind heart is perfect for Petey who tends to panic and over-think problems.
The story itself is structured almost in two halves. The first half deals with the growth of Matt and Petey’s relationship and contains some strong submission scenes. I’ve not got the right personality to truly understand why Petey craves submission, however, I still found these interesting and engaging because of the way they affect Petey and therefore his love for Matt. The second half of the book was tense and nail-biting as Petey and Matt deal with the consequences of some of their actions, both from the previous book and this one. I was sitting on the edge of my seat for most of this time, anxious to read how it was all going to work out for our heroes. Take my advice and don’t do what I did and start to read this section just before bedtime. I sat up until the early hours because I couldn’t bear to put the book down, it was that gripping. I ran the whole gamut of emotions from being horrified, to dumbstruck, to outraged before I got to the end.
If I have any niggles at all about the book it was in the way that some of the parts were structured. The book would follow a scene between Matt and Petey and then afterwards Petey would ruminate on what had just happened to him. Whilst much of this added to Petey’s character development, some of it was almost a straight retelling of the scene that I had just read and it seemed unnecessary. I found myself skimming over those bits until I got to the heart of what Petey wanted to get out of the situation. However, this wasn’t bad enough that it detracted too much from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, Puppy Love 2: Building a Family was a pretty terrific book. I was drawn into Petey and Matt’s story once again and I’m very much looking forward to the final book in this trilogy. If you haven’t read the first book because you didn’t want to read some of the more objectionable parts of it, then you could still read this book because all the information from the previous book that you need for this story is recapped in this book. For those who have read and enjoyed the first book, I highly recommend this sequel.